Tax incentive rebate programs bill would raise $96.5M over four years

BATON ROUGE — A bill that would raise $96.5 million over a four-year period was approved 22-11 here Wednesday by the state Senate.

Sen. Jay Luneau, D-Alexandria, is sponsor of Senate Bill 493 that makes sales and use tax rebates that were reduced by 20 percent in 2016 permanent. The measure moves to the House.

Sen. Ronnie Johns, R-Sulphur, and Dan “Blade” Morrish, R-Jennings, voted for the bill. Sen. Eric LaFleur, D-Ville Platte, and John Smith, R-Leesville, were recorded as absent.

The bill would raise $19.4 million in 2019-20, $23.1 million in 2020-21, $25.7 million in 2021-22 and $28.3 million in 2022-23.

The three programs affected by the legislation are the Quality Jobs Credit, Enterprise Zone and Competitive Projects Payroll Incentive programs.

Luneau told Sen. Dale Erdey, R-Livingston, the bill is acceptable during this regular session when tax bills cannot be enacted. The rebates reductions are expiring June 30 this year if the legislation fails.

Sen. Mike Walsworth, R-West Monroe, said the state’s credibility may be on the line if the rebates are permanently reduced by 20 percent.

The Louisiana Department of Economic Development would still have money to do its incentive work, Luneau said. It could use the savings for similar programs that might be more effective, he said.

Sen. Francis Thompson, D-Delhi, said the shifting of funds is a good idea, but the state should know what good all of the incentive programs are doing.

The tax breaks involved are some of the most lucrative in the country, Luneau said. A thorough review of incentive programs is scheduled for next year, he said.

Sen. J.P. Morrell, D-New Orleans and chairman of the Senate Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Committee, said Luneau has compromised and consulted with LED.

“We don’t have unlimited funds, and we’re not giving away the store,” Morrell said.